After a long trip to Canada, Lungile finally made it here. Jane and I met on Wed. night at the Toronto airport to welcome her. She said she did not sleep, and was exhausted. Little did she know that we had a very busy 6 weeks ahead, so exhausted might have been an understatement! Depending on our social calendar Lungile would be traveling back and forth between our homes and her first stop was to Jane’s to get settled in.
Gone To Pieces, the local quilt shop in St. Catherine’s, was having a retreat weekend and Jane and Lungile went apple picking so that they could make candy apples for all the retreat guests. Lungile amazed Jane by carrying 74 apples on her head! Everyone at the retreat was so happy to meet Lungile on Friday when they delivered the candy apples. Lungile also sold many of the quilts she brought from the quilting centre.
The next day we all met in Toronto to attend the CreativeFestival, which is a trade show for all types of crafts. There are vendors for scrap booking, knitting, needlework and of course quilting. We were like kids in a candy store and Lungile was able to find many patterns, fabrics and notions that both she and the Mzansi Zulu Quilt Centre needed. After at least 6 hours of shopping we called it a day and went for dinner.
When calling around to find a hotel in Toronto believe it or not, The Royal York was the cheapest hotel right downtown, so we were able to spend the night in Toronto in style! If only we knew that there was a Madonna concert going on and we might have tried for tickets, but instead we went back to the hotel to swim and have a hot tub.
Sunday was spent walking around downtown and attempting to dodge the runners in the Toronto Marathon. I think we picked one of the busiest weekends to go to Toronto. We took a trip up the CN Tower, as it was a very touristy thing to show Lungile. She was even brave enough to go outside while up the tower and to stand one foot on the glass floor. I am scared of heights, which will be even more apparent later in the story.
After a busy and exciting weekend, Lungile came back with me to Ilderton. Enough of the goofing around, we had quilting to learn! On Monday Lungile and I attended a class in Goderich with the Goderich Quilt Guild. Karen Cole was teaching a weaving and beading class where you learned to make a notions holder. Lungile also showed some quilts and panels and had a great time meeting everyone. Quilter’s By The Square, the quilt shop in Goderich had a fabric exchange sale earlier in the year and Betty helped me load so much beautiful fabric in my car that was being donated to the Mzansi Zulu Quilt Centre. I think my bumper was dragging on that drive home!
On Tuesday Lungile was learning some freehand techniques such as swirls, meandering, stars and loops and peacock meandering. There was no stopping her and by the end of the day she had completed 3 lap quilts.
Wednesday we went out to a meeting and displayed the African quilts for sale. Then back to work in the afternoon. Today we were working on continuous curves and meandering and I showed Lungile a bit about feathers on a border. Once Lungile got the hang of CC she was able to go across the quilt without stopping.
On Thursday another full day of freehand quilting techniques and some pantograph pattern quilting too. While Lungile is quilting I have been making the binding to put on the finished quilts. Even after a long day of quilting she still finds the time and energy to finish the binding at night. Tonight was an exception, as she had to put the binding on hold so we could go to my yoga class. Lungile kept up with the class but found it quite funny. While we were attempting the yoga poses I kept hearing this little giggle from her beside me. She is such a great sport and will try anything!
Lynda Earley and Mary Anne Charlton offered to take Lungile to the Africa quilt show in Ailsa Craig on Friday so we met them at the Marsh Store. Brenda Miller and Shirley Bobier gave Lungile some patterns and fabric to take back to the quilting centre in Africa. It was a busy day and Lungile had so much fun with the ladies.
On Saturday, Lungile and I went to the London Friendship Quilters Guild quilt show. We met many of the guild members and saw some beautiful quilts. We also did a little shopping in the merchants mall because you can never have too much fabric. At night we went to the African Gala where we saw some of the quilts, ate some African foods and were entertained by some amazing musicians and singers from the Congo.
Lungile’s first week was almost ending and on Sunday we went to the SOLO meeting in Kitchener. Brenda Wiles and Linda Weinstein, the Creative Sisters, hosted the Southern Ontario Longarm meeting which is generally a potluck lunch followed by an afternoon of social gabbing about machine quilting. Lungile displayed the quilts again and the quilts impressed everyone. After the meeting, Lungile was off to Jane’s for 2 weeks where again she would be training on the machine, piecing quilts, attending guild meetings and seeing the quilt shops.
Jane and Lungile had a very busy 2 weeks as well. There were quilting classes to attend, guild meetings, lunches to attend and of course with Jane there was a lot of shopping! Jane’s son even took Lungile out to Lake Ontario to do some fishing and then that night he cooked her dinner. I guess a teenaged son is a better cook than expected as Kraft Dinner and hot dogs turned out to be Lungile’s new favourite food. She asked for it at every meal and both Jane and I bought her some boxes of Kraft Dinner to take back to Africa.
On Friday I traveled to Niagara on the Lake for the weekend. We decided that since Jane and Lungile had worked so hard for the 2 weeks we would have a girl’s night out. So we headed to Niagara Falls for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that over looks the Falls. If we were any closer we might have gone over the falls, that’s how close our table was. After dinner we had the very unique privilege of being allowed to change the coloured spotlights that illuminate the American and Canadian Falls. A secret knock on the door, some fast taking on Jane’s part and next thing you knew we were up high on the hill controlling the spotlights. We could pick from yellow, blue, red and purple and could program every light to be the same colour or a random assortment. We did such a good job that we earned official illuminator certificates. We then toured Clifton Hill and saw the shops, museums, attractions and bright lights. My fear of heights was clearly evident when Jane convinced me to go on the Sky Wheel ride that is 53 metres high. Jane is not scared of anything and took it upon herself to keep telling me to look out the windows while she shook the bucket we were riding in. Somehow the 3 times around turned into 5 and I was never so glad to get off that thing. Both Lungile and Jane had more fun watching me and my anxiety as I sat with my eyes closed and held on with white knuckles until the ride stopped. Seeing the Falls with 2 feet on the ground is fine enough with me thank you very much. What trip to Niagara Falls would be complete without visiting the casino? We spent an hour playing the slot machines and even Lungile, who was a bit concerned at first was having a great time yelling “Big Money” while playing the Wheel of Fortune game.
On Saturday we went to Gone to Pieces for their open house, did a bit more shopping (can you see a theme here?) and then Lungile and I were back on the road heading to Ilderton again.
Another busy week ahead of us so and this week we were going to learn more difficult techniques like stitch in the ditch, background fills, sashing designs and hopefully feathers of some sort. We worked on Monday again and Lungile did so well with custom quilting.
On Tuesday we went to the Huron Perth Quilt Guild meeting where we showed some of the African quilts for show and tell. We displayed them and sold some too. I was the guest speaker the previous month and it was nice that Lungile could attend a meeting while she was here.
Wednesday Lungile was very lucky to have Heather Stewart teach her a private class on binding. Heather showed her quilts and the different types of bindings. Then Lungile had the hands on class and was a binding pro once the class was finished. She said this was going to be the first thing that she teaches once she returns to Africa as she really found Heather’s technique to be something she thought the other quilters needed to learn!
Thursday was another day of quilting and we took the whole day to quilt a Queen sized quilt with many of the techniques she learned both at my house and while learning from Jane. It was a long day and a big job, but we did it. Lungile now has a quilt she can be proud of and we have sent it home with her so that she can give it to her mom Winnie. It’s a reminder of her time here in Canada and a reminder of all the different quilting techniques she learned.
Friday we spent packing for retreat weekend! Quilts and Calicos in Exeter had their second Fall retreat and lucky for us there were 3 spots left. It was funny explaining to Lungile that a retreat weekend was a girl’s weekend away where we can sew all the time and that somebody else cooks and cleans for us. Linda took very good care of us during the retreat and all the guests were so happy to meet Lungile. Joan Robinson showed Lungile how to sew on binding by machine, which will be another class she can teach back in Africa. Lungile was working on her sample and caught on very quickly to the technique. Saturday night Jane and I showed some videos from our trip in January and I think that was the first time Lungile said she missed home. Seeing Elisabeth and all the other quilters in the video made her a little homesick. On Sunday when we were leaving retreat the snow began to fall. Lungile got to see the snow and also a very cold Lake Huron. She even started a mini snowball fight back at my house with Jane and Alexandra.
Jane and Lungile returned to Niagara on the Lake for her last week of training. Once again there were days of quilting, piecing, Rotary meetings and quilt meetings. And towards the end of the week Jane and Lungile had the difficult job of packing her luggage to go home. I say difficult as Lungile was allowed 2 suitcases each weighing 50lbs. It turned out that she had those 2 bags plus 2 more that were 70lbs each. Everyone was so generous with donated supplies that we needed to send those extra bags. We received so many monetary donations that we were also able to buy gifts for every quilter at the centre. Each quilter received a Canada tote bag that included a cutting mat, 2 small rulers, needle threader, hand sewing needles, machine needles, scissors, pack of 5 rotary cutter blades, thread, fabric, 120” measuring tape, seam ripper (they call it an unpicker), candy and Jane’s special addition- lip gloss. Lungile thought all the quilters would be so excited to receive these special gifts and again I thank everyone for being so generous helping Lungile’s trip to Canada so successful. For every quilter to have these supplies will make quilting so much easier for them.
Monday was a sad day for everyone as Lungile had to be back at the airport by mid afternoon to fly back home. Our goodbyes were not as hard as Jane and I thought, as Lungile was quite excited to get back home and see her family. Her strength as we said goodbye made it easier for all of us! And I think by the 10th time Lungile had heard us yell “Goodbye ”, she was probably glad to get through the gate and not have to wave at us any more!
Wednesday she arrived home and we heard from Rick and Elisabeth that she arrived safe and sound and that the supplies all made it too. Lungile was going to rest a day and then head to the centre and give out the gifts and supplies. Lungile said she would tell Martha, one of the quilters that there would be presents for everyone. Apparently Martha would ensure that EVERYONE would hear about the gifts and they would all be at the centre on Friday! Here are photos of Lungile giving everyone gift bags.
I can’t believe that the 6 weeks are over already. I have tears in my eyes now as I remember all that we did and shared with Lungile. She is an amazing person and so brave to leave everything behind and come to a foreign country and stay with people she did not know just to learn more quilting skills that would improve her quality of life and the quality of lives of the other quilters. Not only did she learn quilting but she gained the confidence so that she can be proud of who she is in any situation. As shy as Lungile seemed when she met new people or when in a large group situation, she really gained confidence the 6 weeks she was in Canada. I hope she is as proud of herself and both Jane and I are of her.
Thank you to everyone that supported this once in a lifetime opportunity for Lungile. Once again we couldn’t have done it with out you!
The following stores are selling the South African Shweshwe fabric similar to that Lungile brought with her in 2008. Many of the African quilts used Shweshwe as it is traditional to that region. Shweshwe is available in Red, Blue and Brown prints, softens when washed and is extremely durable.